4, 5, 6, 7, S at Grand Central-42nd St.
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This venue is closed.
Convivio is partners Chris Cannon and chef Michael White's ambitious reimagining of an upscale Italian restaurant in Tudor City that was called L’Impero. To provide a sense of sunny, Italian lightness (Convivio is also the name of a famous restaurant in Rome), the interior designer, Vicente Wolf, has covered the walls with white reflective glass and fitted them with installations of shimmering nylon string. The old lamp shades have been replaced with modish ones hung with orange glass spheres. The waiters have been outfitted with rust-colored shirts and the banquettes covered in Italianate crimson, like the inside of a grand Sicilian railway car.
But these mildly garish stylistic changes are minor compared with the new menu, which has been ingeniously recast by Mr. White. The four-course, $59 prix fixe dinner is $5 cheaper than the old one, but now you can choose from a mind-boggling 53 items, many of which change on a daily, or seasonal, basis. There are nine authentic varieties of the pre-antipasti finger food called sfizi (artichokes tossed with slivers of mint, fat risotto croquettes colored with saffron, soft bits of baby eggplant touched with chile), and enough antipasto dishes (I counted twelve) to feed a small army of Sicilian peasants. If you must choose four, order the skewer of grilled quail with sweet onions, the shreds of pigs’ feet and Controne beans tossed in a tangy vinaigrette, the faintly boozy chicken-liver crostini made with onions sautéed in Marsala wine, and the breaded sardines, which are dunked in creamy salmoriglio sauce (like Sicilian tartar sauce) and filled with smoky provolone.
But it’s in the realm of pastas that White demonstrates why he’s become known, in certain Rabelaisian circles, as midtown’s answer to Mario Batali. Like Batali, the rotund, gregarious chef is a voracious scholar of regional Italian cuisine. And like Batali, he has the ability to take classic recipes and imbue them with his own combination of lightness and soul. I’m thinking of the handcrafted maccheroni, folded Roman style with egg yolk, pepper, salty bits of pancetta, and summer peas, which was followed to our table by a bowl of baby-size orecchiette dunked in a rich Sicilian ragù made with tripe and lightened with fennel. There are densely textured ragùs made with braised pork shoulder (served over a nest of fusilli and finished with a lush fonduta made with caciocavallo cheese), fat tortelli ingeniously stuffed with tomato, onion, and cured pork jowl, and a weirdly ethereal recipe from Sardinia called malloreddus made with saffron, blue crab, and a hint of fresh sea urchin.Note
Convivio offers a fine selection of Italian beers. Enjoy them with the crispy fried “Pecorino potatoes,” possibly the greatest potato treat since the French fry.Ideal Meal
Chicken-liver crostini or sardines, fusilli with pork ragù or maccheroni, swordfish involtini or squab, chocolate torta.